your home is likely to be the biggest investment that you’ll make. Make your
dream home a reality by saving money in smart ways and avoiding costly building
mistakes with these 12 money-saving tips from some of Houseplans.com’s favorite design and construction experts.
1. Know how you use your living space.
One of the smartest ways to save money when
building your home is to first understand how you and your family use your
living space, because good designers and builders are going to ask you about this
at the beginning of the project.
“I start by looking at the family’s utility
bills and asking about their passions,” says Steph Nelson, national sales
director for Nelson
Design Group, which designed plan 17-2480 above. Do
you love the outdoors? Do you want to drink your morning coffee on the patio or
watch the sunset there? Does someone in your family have a passion for cooking,
making the kitchen a major focal point of your home? Knowing how you use your
living space will help you build a home that better fits the way you live.
2.Choose your lot carefully.
Your lot can make
or break you, says Todd Jenkins, Vice President Custom Division, at the design
firm of Frank Betz Associates. “You
want a gently sloping lot for a basement or a nice flat lot for a slab or crawl
foundation,” Jenkins says.
Designer Jason Breland at House Plan Zone agrees. “While
you may think you’ll save money buying a sloping lot, any savings will likely
be negated by costly site prep and necessary additional foundation materials,” he
3. Consider climate, sun
orientation, and neighborhood.
Before you buy a lot, Nelson recommends understanding the climate in your area
and the orientation of the sun on your lot because these factors will affect
what you can build and where. For example, if you’re in a cooler climate, you
don’t want windows or door on the home’s northern exposure because the house
will lose heat through them in the winter. And if you want to put solar panels
on your roof, you need a simplistic roof line (like plan 430-164 above) and lots of southern exposure.
addition, Breland suggests researching the area your lot is in (the school system,
crime rates, resale values, etc.). “There’s nothing worse than building your
dream home on a lot you bought for a great price, only to realize after
construction the reason why it was such a great deal,” he says.
4. Shop for a builder.
Shop around before committing to a builder. Check
references, go look at past projects, get everything in writing, and get
multiple bids before making your selection. “It may be tempting to hire your
cousin’s best friend’s uncle for the ‘friends and family’ discount, but you get
what you pay for, and the lowest bid may not always be the best,” Breland says.
Jenkins agrees. “Always make sure everything is included in the price,” he says.
“The cheapest guy could become the most expensive if he has left out items that
were supposed to be in the quote.”
you’re a licensed builder, architect, or home designer, don’t try to build your
home yourself—hire a licensed general contractor. While you may think you can
save 10 to 15 percent, time is also money, and subcontractors won’t be as loyal
to you as to the builders who give them the bulk of their work. You might wait
weeks or months for work to be done, run the risk of a potential lawsuit if building
regulations aren’t followed, and have no one to fix big mistakes like a toilet plumbed
and installed in the wrong place. Plus, when you hire a builder, they can do
reference and background checks on contractors, ensure that they have insurance
(including workers’ compensation insurance), and see that lien wavers are
signed after work is completed to prevent your being sued or having a lien
placed on your house.
6. Compare bids from lenders.
Saving even .5 percent in interest over the course of
a 30-year mortgage can keep thousands of dollars in your pocket. It’s also a
good idea to pick your lender and get pre-approved before you choose your design,
so that you know how much home you can afford to build.
Enjoy a smoother
building process and avoid costly mistakes
on the job site by selecting a pre-designed home plan like plan 938-90 above. However, before you buy the plan, talk with
your builder to verify how much house you can afford. If you budget is for a
2,000-square-foot home, don’t purchase a 2,500-square-foot plan thinking that you
can cut costs to afford it; you’ll end up wasting money on plans you can’t use.
In addition, sticking to your budget and building a smaller house can free up
dollars to invest things like in better insulation or higher-quality windows
and doors. Another way to save money is to avoid extra unheated square footage
by opting for a two-car garage instead of a three-car garage.
And finally, if
you’re going to make modifications to your plans, have a professional service make them rather than doing change orders on the jobsite, which builders charge
a premium price for.
everyone wants their home to be unique in some way, keep resale value in mind,
too. Remember, life happens, and if you end up moving at some point, a home
that is custom designed for your needs might not appeal to potential buyers.
9. Shop for
builders offer allowance for fixtures, appliances, and finishes. Breland
advises doing your homework and pricing these items before buying them. Impulse
buys at the home improvement store will wreak havoc on your budget. You can
find great deals online and avoid sales tax in some cases. Also, avoid custom
(meaning more expensive) finishes. Choosing readily available products and
fixtures that are cheaper like pre-fabricated shower units and cabinetry are
good ways to save. With all the variety in today’s home products, you’re not
likely to sacrifice individuality for cost.
Save money by planning for spaces you’ll want in the
future. Consider roughing out plumbing and electrical in common walls for an
in-law unit or bonus room you can add later. And, if you’re handy, you can save even thousands
by finishing the space yourself later on.
11. Do some work yourself if you are knowledgeable.
This can save you money if you have construction
experience. However, “if your only experience is binge-watching HGTV and
DIY network, then this might not be the best money-saving tip,” Breland says. Know
your limitations and be humble enough to know when to call a professional. In
addition, consider planting your own landscaping, which can save on labor
12. Communicate with your builder. Many of the problems experienced in the process of
building a home can be attributed to a lack of communication. Don’t be
afraid to ask questions and go over construction elements with your builder
before they start. It’s always cheaper to get it right the first time rather
than to tear something out and start over.